With the dust finally settling on an eventful 2021 Enduro World Series, we caught up with Pole Pro Team riders Joe and Leigh during the final round of the year in Tweed Valley, Scotland.
High drama probably best describes the final round of this year’s EWS. Rain, mud, steep technical trails, and a high profile disqualification were in abundance during the final race of 2021.
Joe was handed the new prototype bike to put it through its paces during the weekend also. Not an ideal situation to be given a completely new bike two days before an EWS race. But Joe dug deep and gave it his all. His first impressions were positive and his stage times improved as the weekend went on.
Check out the edit we managed to put together during a hectic and muddy weekend in the Tweed Valley.
We also managed to fire the obligatory on-the-spot questions at the guys about their 2021 season overall…
How do you feel now the last race of the season is over?
Leigh – Always mixed emotions at the end of the season, glad to make it through but also sad to have to deal with another British winter of training (haha). Feels like a long time until the first race of next year but time will go fast when I am working hard.
Joe – Well and truly due a rest both mentally and physically. I’ve had an action-packed five months of travel and racing away from home. Juggling the van life, bike mechanics, training and eleven races was a big job! It’s been a great trip though, being able to share the journey with my girlfriend Katy and travel to some amazing riding locations. It’s awesome to see the world beginning to make its way back to normality after a few weird years!
What was the highlight of the 2021 season for you? What was the lowest point?
Leigh – I think the high point was being grateful to have the chance to travel and race bikes again after missing the 2020 season, I was riding solid and enjoying it. The low points for me were probably the results. I can’t pinpoint what was holding me back. It was tough not having the speed to be close to the top, especially after being there in 2019.
Joe – The highlight for me had to be the Crans-Montana EWS round. I didn’t know what to expect from the area. I was impressed to find some great mountain bike trails with berms, jumps, and flow. Attributes not often found at EWS rounds these days with the racing being restricted to Europe.
How have the bikes held up over the year for you both?
Leigh – My stamina 180 has been spot on. I built a new remastered frame before the start of the season, and it’s here at the end of the season with only one full bearing change later. I’m ready for a full winter of training coming up. It makes such a difference to be riding a solid bike. Sometimes without race support things can be very stressful but having the best kit makes that a little bit easier.
Joe – My bike has stood up to the abuse I’ve thrown at it over such a congested season, I would have likely ridden 15+ hours per week. Of course, I certainly put some man-hours into it to make that happen, mainly changing tires or servicing suspension. I destroyed a few drivetrains and with the current lack of parts in the industry, I ended the season using 11-speed gearing which I was really impressed with. Rear wheels take the majority of the abuse so I ended the season on my third which wasn’t too bad. Did some juggling between the Rockshox Zeb and Lyric depending on whether I wanted traction or plowing capability at the time, which I found interesting. Frame-wise, the Stamina is really easy to work on which is a huge benefit when I’m the mechanic and often under time constraints
One for Joe – How did you get on with the prototype at the Tweed Valley EWS?
After three years riding the Stamina, it was exciting to have a change to get my head around. Having just one ride before the race kicked off meant high performance was not the expected outcome. But rather some prototype testing that would be second to none! The new linkage design and resulting suspension curve have a bit of a different ride feel, one that I am really excited to get used to. Practice morning was spent visiting local bike shops trimming handlebars and finding volume spacers to get the feel I was after. I was really impressed with the bikes’ agility considering its 190mm of travel front and rear. It was also massively efficient over the Scottish stages. I think the new bike is going to be an absolute weapon to race in the future seasons. Once again, it’s great to see Pole at the forefront of bike design.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021?
Leigh – After the last race in Scotland, I took a few days off, which was good, but when I got back home the weather was good so couldn’t resist doing lots of hours of riding. Currently writing this I am forcing myself to have some more time off the bike before starting training again.
Joe – I’m currently halfway through my two-week hotel quarantine required for entry back into New Zealand. Once I’m released, I’m driving to the North Island to race Rotorua Crankworx, more testing for the prototype! I’ve entered the downhill, pump track, and slalom, just to mix things up at the start of an off-season.
The next goal is an event called ‘Le Petit Brevet’ in my hometown of Christchurch, which I’m really looking forward to. There are a few course options but I’ve decided to go for the Mac Daddy and attempt to climb 15,000m over 500km in the 38 hours cut-off. I hope to make a video of the attempt, which should be a laugh.
This week I’m headed south for a three-week Crankworx race series in the South Island. More downhill racing to put the new frame through its paces. Then I’m hoping for a rest over Christmas and New Year – I’ll be needing it.
What are your goals for 2022? What does the future of the EWS look like for you?
Leigh – My goal for 2022 is to get back to where I left off in 2019. I want to be consistently in the top 20 – a fair task given the level of racing this past year. However, there could be some different plans thrown in which a podium could be a goal. Hopefully, we will have more news about that soon.
Joe – I often reminisce about the early days of EWS racing where the riding days were huge and the stages threw all sorts at you. It was more of an adventure and sometimes. Even the top riders were purely just stoked to get through an epic day first and foremost before checking the results. Times are changing for sure, the sport is evolving with a greater following and media presence. However, I was able to watch a few of the E-EWS rounds this year, and much to my surprise those epic days mentioned above have well and truly come back in the form of E-bike racing. Excitingly, it just so happens that Pole bikes have just released their Voima, an aggressive e-bike with a fast Bosch motor. Stay tuned to see how it goes.
Keep up to date with Leigh and Joe’s via their Instagram by liking and following the pages below.